Published September 04, 2011
We're ready for your close-up, Mr. Rex.
The Jurassic is merely the stage in a new TV series from the Discovery Channel. In "Dinosaur Revolution," which premiers Sunday night at 9 p.m. EST, dinosaurs are characters with personalities that "act out" brief or even hour-long vignettes -- and it's all based on science, a consulting anthropologist told FoxNews.com.
"Some of the stories are honest-to-goodness comedies. Some are dramas. But they're all told by the actions of dinosaurs and fossil mammals and marine reptiles," said Thomas Holtz, a paleontologist with the University of Maryland's Department of Geology.
Some of the story lines were even inspired by old Warner Bros. cartoons, he said.
The new series seeks to entertain while it informs, Holtz explained, sharing the latest news and scientific revelations about the lumbering giants that lived hundreds of millions of years ago. But it does so in a unique new way: The individual dinosaurs take on personas, conveying individual nuance and behavior.
No, the dinosaurs in the show don't talk. Or wink. But they sure do entertain.
"By watching you'll learn about the world of dinosaurs, but you're watching it for the story," Holtz told FoxNews.com.
Discovery Channel describes it as "immersive, inside-out dinosaur storytelling." And despite the epochs separating man from the dinosaurs -- the first episode is set in the late Jurassic, around 1000 million years in the past (give or take a couple dozen million) -- there's no shortage of news to share, Holtz gushed.
"We now have very strong evidence that T.rex and other carnivorous dinosaurs would engage in face biting," Holtz told FoxNews.com. "On a regular basis they'd grab each other's faces and bite them, squabbling over food or fighting over territory or whatever."
The show will highlight old favorites such as Brontosaurs (actually called Apatosaurus) and Tyranosaurus, of course. But it will also feature newly discovered species that may remind the viewer of old favorites, though they are brand new in the eyes of science.
Take for example the Miragaia, a Portuguese relative of the familiar Stegosaur with a smaller, spikier neck.
"It's got more spikes, it's plates aren't as big, its neck is longer. It should be different enough to catch people's attention," Holtz told FoxNews.com.
But the unique aspect of the show is the plots and stories. The character traits that make it possible are hardly something that scientists can pick out from fossils that are hundreds of millions of years old -- and Holtz admits they are, to some extent, a concession to storytelling. But it's all based in one form or another on science, he stressed.
One story features a small flying raptor called Rahonavis, which is depicted mimicking the song of other birds, like a mynah bird.
"We have zero evidence that that trait existed in any dinosaur," he said. "But that is a trait we have seen in many different kinds of birds," which are descendants of the dinosaurs. "It's not unreasonable to think some dinosaurs may have had it."
But even when character traits are added to dinosaurs in the show, the creators kept it all realistic, Holtz said.
"We didn't give them X-men super powers."